Though I realize there is a more specific forum for Hypertufa and Concrete, I
wanted to share this here because I know many of us have a small (or large)
stash of goodies that can be utilized in the following project. Not to mention,
I love and miss all of you! :-(
For a quick, fun and very easy garden project, grab a bag of concrete, your imagination, and follow me!
Concrete planters and garden ornamentation are a wonderful addition to the outdoor setting around one's home. Often, such decor comes with a high price, enormous size and incredible weight which is not easily transported. The solution? Make your own.
While you would likely not fare well to dive right into large scale concrete landscaping, you can dabble a bit in a smaller project to begin with. Then, when you find how addicting this craft is, take it easy on me for suggesting it. So let's get started
QUIKRETEŽ Concrete Mix (No. 1101) is the original 4000 psi average compressive strength blend of portland cement, sand, and gravel or stone. Just add water. Use for any general concrete work. (Ver batum as posted on the Quikrete site) Resist the urge to use heavy duty concrete, as it is very chunky.
Though many home improvement stores carry ready-to-mix concrete in 80 pound bags, it is also available in other sizes, depending on your preference as well as ability to lug it around. Be sure to allow store employees to help load the larger bags into your car. There are many types of ready-to-mix available, choose accordingly. I prefer Quikrete (mainly because it is readily available in our area) and Quikrete Vinyl Concrete Patcher, but these products are mere suggestions. Nothing is cast in stone. Yet.
COLORING - Not a necessary item at all, though coloring concrete is quite fun, and easy! Check out liquid cement colors near the concrete section of your local hardware store. A 10 oz. bottle will color quite a bit of concrete. If you want to maintain color consistency in your projects, consider making up large bottles of colored water for your project, and be sure to keep a lid on the container of mixed water. Shake well before using.
MOLDS - An endless supply of molds, containers and other ideas are available everywhere. Scour yard sales, thrift stores and other thrifty places for interesting shapes and sizes. Don't stick to bowls, use your imagination. You could even make your own. Try not to choose anything with great detail, as you may be disappointed. For finer detail, use Vinyl Patch mix, which has far less bumps and bits of rock.
Just about any container can be utilized as a mold for concrete, provided you are able to get the finished product out of it. Bowls, cups, milk cartons, jugs, the ideas are bountiful. At present, I've found much delight in selecting unique glass containers from second hand stores and yard sales. If the finished item cannot be dropped or dumped out of the mold, after the concrete has fully set up, simply (and gently) tap the glass to crack or break it from your concrete creation, then rinse off the glass and be sure to take it to the recycling center.
Plastic, stainless steel and other materials release from the cured concrete easily when non-stick spray is applied to the mold prior to adding concrete.
NON-STICK COOKING SPRAY - Yes, release agents are sold specifically for the purpose of mold release when using concrete, but quite frankly, a cheap can of non-stick cooking spray works just fine. Use it generously to ensure your project will slide out of the mold.
A WATER BATH - Concrete is not as easy as mix, set and forget. It needs to harden, or 'cure'. Unfortunately, concrete is notorious for setting before the ingredients have had a chance to bond as securely as they could have. The result of a rushed concrete job is cracking, weakened durability and a crumbled project. I allow my projects to remain in the mold for a minimum of 24 hours, then carefully remove, and gently set the item into a deep bath of water for a minimum of one week. Okay, fine, I admit it, I stuff them into pond plant containers and sometimes in with the Koi. Often I submerge the entire project to avoid any damage. DON'T rush it, don't be impatient. The reward to patience is well worth it. A week. I mean it!
WATER - Necessary to mix with the concrete. Not too hot, not too cold, not too much, not too little. Perhaps my 'luck' has been the love of making mud pies as a child. Think Goldilocks, and mix well.
RUBBER GLOVES - Nothing fancy needed, but you should wear them. Be safe, not sorry. Concrete poisoning is no fun, and it's not pretty. I know this from personal experience.
EMERGENCY MOLDS - So you've mixed a pristine batch of concrete, you've sprayed the mold and you're in the process of filling it. Whoops, not enough concrete! Quick, dump it out and reach for another mold. Keep one close by for this very reason, and don't forget to spray it first. It is better to make a bit more than to end up a bit short.
A POKER - You'll need something about the circumference of a pencil to poke out air bubbles.
A LARGE SPOON - Or any similar item to mix the concrete. My favorite? A skinny garden trowel. Keep your eyes off items in the utensil drawer of the kitchen unless you no longer wish to use it on food.
BUCKETS, MEASURING CUPS, MISCELLANEOUS 'TOOLS OF THE TRADE' - Obtain inexpensive tools and reserve them for concrete projects alone, as they will become tarnished with concrete. Don't be wasteful. Clean and re-use your tools.
Spray your mold and set aside. Mix the concrete so it is about the consistency of peanut butter, not a slushee. It should hold a bit of form when shaped into a ball, but not so wet that it slumps, and not so dry that you can't make a ball without a great deal of effort. Pack the mold, tapping and poking the concrete down into any crevices in the mold. Once filled, level off the top with something flat like a ruler. Set on a level surface out of direct sun. Wait twenty four hours before you even think of touching it.
TIME - Now you have to make a decision. I've tried submerging the entire project, mold and all, for one week before attempting to remove glass molds, as well as removing the mold by breaking it after 24 hours. I highly suggest submerging the entire project. In a week's time, you will be able to gently smack the glass and remove it from the concrete as opposed to risking a not-quite-set-yet project.
After completion, be sure to wash off your tools as well as you can, and make certain you wash your hands and arms well. Apply lotion. In one week's time, remove the concrete item from the water and...enjoy!
thanks I've just begin to experiment and have been making some cobbles for a garden path. I found the same thing w/ cooking spray...works great...don't let it pool when you spray it wipe it to spread it around and it releases fine as long as you let the concrete sit in the mold long enough...I'm going to try some other projects now that my confidence is up a bit with my first small project. I use the 40lb bags of Quickrete because it is about all I can handle. I never tried sitting it under water. Have been spraying it down and using clear plastic w/ good success. Thanks for posting this...love your bowls inhabitant!
I do see what you mean, but it may be difficult to explain. I did not have to
place anything in the middle of the concrete to form the indention. Picture
the exact bowl I made, but in clear glass. The bottom is open, so in other words,
the 'mold' I used looked exactly as the bowl does, but made of glass. When the
'bowl' is turned upside down, the bottom is open glass, you could put your hand
I turned the bowl upside down, then filled the cavity with concrete, packing as I
went. After it was cured, I turned the bowl back over, so the indention now becomes
the center, or the 'well', if you will.
Oh, how I wish I had a picture of it before I broke the glass. I cannot find them
anywhere, even on the internet.
No, you're not dumb at all. I wish I had a photo of the glass bowl taken before
it was broken. This is what makes it difficult to explain. This was not just a bowl,
but a bubble bowl. The glass was bubbled. I turned it upside down, where it was open,
and then filled the bubble, or the opening, with concrete. Once it was dry, I turned
it over, and wa-la.
I'll try to find a glass bowl like it, and as soon as I do, I'll post a picture to help explain
how this was done.
Wonderful revisit to one of my most loved pastimes. Only problem was that I do everything in excess - I mean EXCESS. One hint to add to the tutorial is that the craft paints hold up amazingly well out of doors - I have tons of leaves and pavers around the ranch that have not dimmed at all in 7 years!!!!!!!!!!
Paint, wipe, paint more - most of my stuff was concrete leaves - so this is just a little "aside".
Folk Art, Patio Paint, DecorArt - found many of them at Michael's or WalMart. When I was doing the big leaves - rhubarb and such - I would use exterior latex from Home Depot, Lowe's, etc. I would buy their mistakes - the ones not blended right for a home painter. One thing wonderful is that if you don't like what you get, you can just paint over something else. Use a rag as much as a brush -------- and then the craft paints for special effects. Just SO much fun that talking about it "almost" makes me want to get back into it - but marketing was never my forte, all my friends have been gifted, and even community raffles have received my donations. LOL Living rural on acreage certain made my addiction flourish!!!!!
Hi WUVIE, been watching your thread so I can learn how to do this! I was actually on the 'Hypertufa and Concrete' forum and someone said go to 'Trash to Treasure' and read Wuvie's post. I have been reading and I am starting to understand some things. I was curious about why you were so excited about the glass bowl? Aren't you afraid it will break and why not use a plastic bowl? Was it about size? Are you going to let it sit for 24 hours and submerge it ? I really love your bird bath with the frog on it ! :)
Sadly, yes, it is a one time use. Of course, you can always leave the glass
intact, creating a glass / concrete bowl combination, which would be
neat. I'm thinking of doing just that for a pet water bowl, so they can't
tip it over.
Virginia, the glass bowl cannot be removed intact, it is the shape I am after.
Though I have been making other bowls with plastic bowls and molds,
the curve of the underside of the bowl combined with the angled side I'm after.
I try to look at it this way...(insert maniacal laugh)...if I don't buy the bowl
at the second hand store, eventually someone else will.
Sooner or later, the glass bowl will be broken, the pieces will be tossed
into the trash. Gone. Vanished. Wasted.
If 'I' buy the bowl, I'll fill it with concrete, smash the glass, recycle the
glass, AND still have a cool bowl that will be around for years to come.
When I get home this evening, I'll smack the glass, submerge it for a few
days, then remove the glass and sink it again for good measure. :-)
Ok I understand, sounds like a good plan. I would like to make one too, but not to start off with, I would like to make a couple of flower pots, some fake river rocks and maybe a stepping stone. It was the fake rocks that got me looking into this. Do you think a whiskey barrel will do good for submerging stuff. I will be on the lookout for a glass bowl. I can do searches on eBay and Craigslist, etc. I already have a plastic mould for stepping stones, but I haven't figured out how to do the river rocks. Someone on the Hosta forum was using Styrofoam, I am assuming she just covered them with the concrete and left the Styrofoam in there? Or do you pull it out the bottom and they are kinda hollow, they just look like a rock. Would it dry properly if you left it in there?
Oh yes, Styrofoam is another good source of molding, but I'm not sure
if you are referring to covering Styrofoam or making indentions in a large
sheet and filling it with concrete. I've seen both with good results.
Funny you should mention that, as I found a large piece of Styrofoam at
work and intended to do precisely that...use for concrete work.
Wow, that's cool. I was thinking about covering the styrofoam with concrete mixture, just pack it on and try to make it look like a rock. I just didn't know if that would dry properly. Maybe I should just pack it on the top and pull the styro out the bottom. Then It would be hollow in the middle and the hole would be under the rock. I love the idea of making rocks because they are so much lighter and easy to move around. How do you do it??
Sadly, I don't have much time, I'm supposed to be getting ready for work. Ha!
You might consider covering the styrofoam with a bit of wire, perhaps chicken wire,
to give the concrete more 'cling'. I'll be back later, hopefully with some links, but
I think the Hypertuffa forum would be filled with such information. I'll try to get back
on later to see what I can find for you.
My boulder has a plastic trash bag filled with paper and styrofoam and such at the center. The next layer was chicken wire, as Wuvie has suggested. THEN - hypertufa - slowly and methodically applied. I used a wheelbarrow as staging area, because in the final analysis, it WAS too big for me to move by hand. I would allow each section to cure some before turning the boulder and adding another section. 6 years later, it is alive and well and marks the turn into my driveway!!!! Moss has begun to grow on it!!!
@ wuvie ~ I like the concrete bowl with the frog also. Looks cute! I'm limited as to what I can use for "outside" garden decor. I live in a mobile home park, so have to limit items so it doesn't look too tacky. I did buy a water fountain from Walmart few years back that will go in my front yard. I'm going to 'recycle' the gravel that is out front now, to the back area. I've already got approval from the park manager to put in my water fountain [will double as a bird bath] and redo the gravel with a 'terracotta' color gravel. Before I do all that, I have to take all the existing gravel out, treat the dirt with some weed killer & then lay down some new "weed" barrier. Luckily, I have a hand tiller that I can use with that project. I don't think the park manager would like to see old toilets or tubs sitting out front, even if they had flowers in them! LOL !!!
I have always thought that concrete leaches into soil for a while after being poured making the soil too alkaline for plants. Is there anything to that notion or do y'all do something to the products you make to prevent this?
I'm not sure if this is relevant for many of you, but I live in the desert where the soil is very sandy. Digging shapes into damp sand works well for interestingly textured and shaped concrete molds. Looking at the shape of that awesome glass bowl, I'm thinking it might be sculpted upside-down in damp, sandy ground and poured. I don't have pics of the ones I made like this long ago, but am planning on making some more this year so I'll post pics when I do, if you all wish. Cool thing also about this method is that fun, decorative "junk" can be pressed into the sand, (leaving enough exposed to embed in the concrete). When it's dry just dig it up and begin again!
This is so cool, but it did take me awhile to figure out that Froggie was REAL! I have no frog visitors :( Now then, what do "normal" people use those glass bubble bowls for? Someone mentioned floating, I think, which I assume means candles or flowers.
I have a friend who had a table mass out of an elephant ear. His plant was the largest I have ever seen. I've thought about grunge this myself but the elephant ears year so easily. Anyone have any ideas on now I can do this. Unfortunately I don't have any pics if his.
One more question anyone: If you want to use the bowl for a planter you need drain holes in the bottom. If you are using a solid glass bowl how can you put holes in the bottom of the concrete you shape inside?
Also, can very large nursery pots be used as molds if they are really strong? Those could have a large straw put into holes in bottom while shaping the concrete. Right???
Easy to make holes in green concrete - i.e. while it is still wet, use a probe, pencil, or even your finger to wiggle hole(s) in the bottom. Once it is free from its mold, you can smooth the edges using a round file should you wish.
Thanks much. When I get my plants set up in ponds again maybe I'll have time to try a container for plants. Winds from TS blew them over and out of their pots. My son wires his pond plants right thru bottom of pots so I will do that this time.
Happy pot making all.
I have been wanting to make some of these for years and now you have inspired me to follow through and DO it. I have plenty of things to use except a bowling ball. Do you think another bowl filled with rocks or sand to make it heavy would work? I also had the idea of just digging a hole and shaping it to whatever I want and then digging it up when it was set. But I like your idea better as it seems to be cleaner. I did make a few from cardboard boxes once but I think I got the mix wrong because they didn't last very long. But I just wanted to thank you for sharing your excellent directions and photos for us to try this out ourselves. Here is a picture of my resident toad. He overwinters in this pot. I assume it is the same one. I don't know how long they live. But he showed up about 2 years ago and hasn't left. Its on the patio so when the lights are on in the breakfast room the insects come his way. Ta Ta